One of the largest communities impacted by this pandemic has been seniors in care homes. As a result, many of us have been lucky enough to take our parents into our home for their safety and wellbeing. Caring for your parents is rewarding in so many ways. You can be there for them emotionally and help them with activities of daily living. You may find yourself managing their medical bills, scheduling doctors’ appointments, providing meals and helping them to dress.
However, as things start to open up and your professional work load increases, it can prove to be very difficult to perform your job well while also caring for your parent(s). For you to perform both duties optimally, it is important to find time for yourself. Even a five-minute mental break can revive you emotionally and physically. In these testing times, you must first take care of your own mental health and wellbeing. It’s like when you’re on an airplane (yes, remember those days?!) and they tell you to put your mask on first, and then help your loved one with their mask.
In theory this sounds so logical, take care of ‘me’ first so I can be energized enough to care for my family. It’s hard to know where to start, but fear not! Here are some tips that may help you:
1. A sound sleep schedule for yourself – I know it’s hard when the next episode of your favorite show is beckoning, but sleep is so important if you are going to function optimally. It is recommended that a solid six to eight hours of sleep can help your brain function at its best. Any less and you risk irritability, forgetfulness and a depressed mood.
2. Exercise is important – I know, we’ve all heard it before, but it holds a lot of truth. Even if you can get in some skipping or a walk up and down the stairs. If you are lucky enough to have exercise equipment at home, put on your favorite TV show or podcast on to help the time fly by. Whatever you can get in, get moving!
3. Meditation and mindfulness – These are powerful tools that will help align your mind and heart. It’s a workout for your brain, not only will it help you be more focused but will help you to be in a better mood. Start slowly with three to five minutes a day. It is not easy, you may even find it slightly frustrating at first as your mind will wonder, but there are many options out there such as YouTube videos and apps. Some of my favorite apps are Calm, Headspace and Simple Habit. They all have a free version to try before you fall in love and commit.
4. A healthy diet, for you and your family – This can be a tough one (hey, we all struggle with bad snacking now and then!), but as you take care of your mental wellbeing, this one may come more naturally as you become more present in the moment. An easy trick may to make healthy snacks (fruits, celery or cucumbers) more accessible than the unhealthy ones (candy and chips). Making a smoothie is my go-to option-there is no chewing involved, and your parents may enjoy this too!
5. Connecting with others like you – There are a lot of groups and pages on social media that share stories just like yours. Sharing is caring! Not only does it feel good to share how you are feeling, but there is something inspiring about hearing that others are going through the same. Connecting with likeminded people gives meaning and purpose to our lives.
6. Be kind to yourself – We are our own biggest critics! Know that you are doing an amazing job of taking care of your family and they are blessed to have you. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on what you did wrong, but take the time to focus on everything you are doing right! Of course, things happen and we are only human! But don’t be hard on yourself, instead think ‘what can I learn from this? How can I better next time?’
7. Being open to change – 2020 has been a year of change for the whole world. Being resilient and keeping your mind positive, allow you to remain calm when changes occur. It is natural to panic when something happens, especially when it’s not in our control (like this pandemic), but being positive and seeing the silver lining in these situations will shine through like a ray of hope in your home. Aging parents can be challenging, but knowing that it’s not in your control will make it easier for you to react to and deal with certain situations.
8. Journaling – Before going to bed each night, write down two (yes, just two!)things that you are grateful for each day and two things you want to improve. It could be something as simple as being more present with your parent. There are so many distractions in the world today, devices, devices, devices! A smart phone over here, a tablet over there and perhaps some work calls in between!?
This pandemic has caused a lot of stress and grief for professionals all over, who are not only working from home but are also caring for their parents. The silver lining? You can connect with your parents and recreate the bond you had with them as a child. Remember to count your blessings-not everyone has been lucky enough to be close to their parents during this time. Juggling your work life and personal life can be a beautiful dance, just keep your heart and mind open to change. Be positive, kind and spread love. The world couldn’t have enough of that right now!